The great lumbering beast has been in hibernation for the past eight years, but with the release of Life... The Best Game in Town, legendary avant-metal band Harvey Milk has reawakened and is back on the rampage. The Athens, Georgia, band was criminally overlooked its first time around, but now it's finally reaping some of the acclaim it deserves, having spearheaded the deathly slow, deafeningly heavy sound that's been copied by countless other bands.
"I don't think we were that ahead of the curve necessarily," says bassist Stephen Tanner of Harvey Milk's sudden relevance. "But there was an article in the New York Times on the new avant-garde, with Sun O))) and Boris, two bands that have seemed to really explode. Now there's this huge audience that's into that kind of shit, and they look around and our stuff comes up. It just seemed like [in the '90s] the shit we were doing wasn't very hip. No one was into it. But we're a little more acceptable, or tolerable, now. I have no idea why there's an audience. It's pretty fun, though."
Life ties together minimalism, metal, and blues; it's bruising, but it has poise, and a darkly sumptuous beauty that seems at odds with the band's unpretentious demeanor.
"A couple of guys in the band have no interest in metal and would laugh at the idea of even being considered metal," says Tanner. "At our shows, there's a very broad crowd. I don't know if it's because we look normal, because we don't wear corpse paint, we don't wear leather. But I like seeing the metalheads, because I'm a fucking metalhead. I grew up on all that shit."
Meanwhile, Portlander Joe Preston has joined the band for its first West Coast tour, including the first-ever Harvey Milk show in Portland. "I'm excited," says Tanner, who briefly lived here 10 years ago. "I live in New York now and a lot of people think it's this fun, great place to live with tons of shit to do, but there's more to do in Portland."